High-end fashion brands are often accused of cultural appropriation, and the latest brand to land in that controversy is American jeweller Tiffany & Co. The jewellery company was involved in custom designing a special almond-shaped emerald, diamond-encrusted sunglasses for artist Pharrell Williams. Earlier this week Tiffany & Co shared a picture of the singer and entrepreneur in the “custom-made” bejewelled spectacles. The caption accompanying the picture read, “Double take. Pharrell attended Nigo’s Kenzo show in Paris wearing a pair of custom-designed Tiffany & Co. sunglasses in 18k gold with 61 round brilliant diamonds of over 25 total carats and two emerald-cut emeralds.” The recent development hints at Pharrell’s collaboration with the jewellery brand.
However, those who are well-acquainted with the history of the Mughal empire found a striking similarity with the 17th-century artefact worn by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Indian fashion critique Diet Sabya was quick to respond to the blatant cultural appropriation, as they commented under Tiffany & Co’s post, “The sheer audacity to copy this Mughal piece.”
Western fashion critic Diet Prada also shared a lengthy post on Instagram explaining the history of the original emerald spectacles commissioned by the fifth Mughal emperor. In its Instagram post, Diet Prada cited several sources that showed how Tiffany’s so-called “custom” creation was originally commissioned by the 17th century Mughal emperor.
According to Scottish historian William Dalrymple, who specialises in South Asian history, the original gemstone spectacles were not cut but cleaved. The spectacles are installed with a slice of diamond and a slice of emerald through which the wearer could see. The green colour was associated with salvation and the Prophet in the Islamic tradition. The emerald was sourced from Colombia, while the diamonds were brought from Andhra Pradesh’s Golconda.
The Mughal-era spectacles were auctioned by Sotheby’s last year in October.
Tiffany & Co has not issued a statement against the accusation yet.